Scams affecting international students

8 January 2020

Some criminals specifically target international students and demand money. Please be vigilant and know how to identify a scam and what to do if you are contacted.

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A scam is a plan to trick people, most often to steal their money.

Anyone on earth can be targeted in a scam, but some scams specifically target international students.

However, there are some simple ways of identifying potential scam calls, messages (via messaging apps) and emails, and what to do if you receive one.

How to identify a scam:

  • Financial scams are designed to take your money. They may start by talking about another topic but will eventually start asking for financial details.

  • They often claim to be from an official organisation such as the UK Home Office or your bank. Such organisations rarely contact you unexpectedly and certainly don’t ask you to give extra money.  

  • Are you expecting a call, message or email about this? Did you contact the UK Home Office about your visa? Have you been having issues with your bank? If you aren’t expecting this call, message or email, be very cautious.

  • They may already know some information about you such as your name, address, passport number or nationality. This means nothing. Sadly, we all know how easily information like this can be obtained.

  • They may ask you to send money via money transfer services such as Western Union or Paypal. Be vigilant as certain types of transactions cannot be refunded.

  • Are there spelling or grammatical mistakes in their communication? Legitimate organisations are unlikely to struggle with the English language.

  • Are they pressuring you to act quickly? Scammers often use a combination of pressure and threatening language to force you to make a decision quickly.

What to do if you receive a scam email, message or call:

  • Never give out your person details (name, address, passport number etc…) and do not confirm any information they have is correct. Legitimate organisations don’t randomly call people and ask for their information.

  • Legitimate organisations will never call you and ask for your personal financial information on the phone. If someone on the phone asks you to give financial information i.e. card number, account number etc…just hang up.

  • Do not make any payments. If you owe money, organisations will be send an official letter to your address rather than calling you.

  • If you’re using a banking service, it’s much safer to either use your bank’s mobile banking app or go to the bank in person.

  • Cross referencing. Whether you’ve been contacted by email, text or on the phone, you can check if the information they’ve given you matches the official information given by that organisation.

  • If you’re not 100% sure of the email or message source, don’t click on any links in the email/message.

  • Report the incident to Action Fraud, either by using their online reporting tool or by phoning +44 (0)300 123 2040 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm).

To see more about UCL's information on scam prevention, please see their web page.

For more information on existing frauds and scams in the UK and methods of prevention, please see UKCISA’s website.

For the Metropolitan Police’s information on scam prevention, please see their video.

Some scams target specific groups of people. Please see UKCISA's latest article on this. 

If you do receive any such contact, please report this to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via their website.